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Pac-12 Commissioner: Serious concerns with California law

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott has expressed serious concerns about a new law that would allow college athletes in California to hire agents and be compensated for the use of their names or likenesses through endorsement deals or other money-making opportunities.

The law signed last week by Gov. Gavin Newsom would blur the lines between college athletics and professional sports, Scott said Monday at the Pac-12 women's basketball media day. He also noted that other states considering similar legislation could create an unbalanced state-by-state approach to governing amateur sports.

"We are for choice and if young people want to earn money from their name, image or likeness or get paid to play, they should have that opportunity. That's called pro sports," said Scott, who met with Pac-12 coaches and student-athletes Monday and discussed the issue. "College sports is different. You go to get an education. It's amateur, they're students. Those are the defining characteristics and we'd like to see those lines not get blurred."

The NCAA, the main governing body for college sports, had called on Newsom to veto the bill. Some opponents also argued it would give California schools an unfair recruiting advantage because it would give student-athletes an added incentive to go where they could make money.

"Schools recruit nationally, compete for national championships. There have to be common rules that apply. I don't think state-by-state legislators deciding how college sports should run is the way to go, and we're going to be very active in trying to seek a national response and solution, whether it's through the NCAA or otherwise," Scott said.

"I think the other concern we've got — while I'm sure the legislators and Gov. Newsom are very well-intended — those of us that work in college sports understand a lot of flaws with this bill and the way it's written. I've seen plenty of people comment on this because people that understand college sports would immediately understand there's recruiting in college sports, and there's very aggressive recruiting and a lot of competition for student-athletes. And I think the concern is that while it may be well-intentioned to try to provide name, image, and likeness opportunities for that very, very small handful — maybe half a percent, 1 percent of our student-athletes go on to have successful professional careers and maybe have a name, image and likeness value — it's pretty clear that there's a market for recruiting student-athletes."

"So, the idea that agents would be involved, helping negotiate deals for student-athletes, our concern is that winds up being payment for recruiting and trying to get student-athletes to go to a certain school," Scott said.

The California law, which is set to take effect in 2023, could have implications for women's sports, too, Scott and coaches said, though everyone is still learning how this might work. "It's such a delicate line, right? You want players to have opportunities and you never want to limit opportunities but you also don't want unintended consequences to maybe trickle down to how it could affect women's opportunities and how it could play out in recruiting circles," UCLA coach Cori Close said. "It's this good intention to try to reward image and likeness, is it really going to play out to reward that or will there be some other things that are taken away that are unintended?

"I think that's sort of my caution but I don't think I'm educated enough yet to do a side. I think it's a complicated issue that we need to think carefully about and we need to not get sucked up into the momentum of public opinion but at the same time listen well, consider well, research well and my job is always to look out for especially women's basketball, but women in sport in general."

Oregon State coach Scott Rueck takes great pride in knowing his players will leave the program with an education after having been part of a tight-knit team community through highs and lows. "There are so many benefits to that experience that I have watched with my own eyes, and their preparation for life beyond what we do, that if this classroom were to be changed in some way that would impact that negatively it would make me sad," Rueck said.

Also Monday, Oregon was picked to win the Pac-12 for the third straight season in a poll of the conference coaches, followed by perennial power and defending Pac-12 Tournament champion Stanford and Oregon State in third. UCLA was fourth, followed by Arizona State, Arizona, Utah, USC, Washington, Washington State, California and Colorado.

Scott announced that the Pac-12 finalized arrangements to hold the men's and women's conference tournaments in Las Vegas for two more years, through March 2022.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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